Volume XII. No. IV. July – August 2008
Chin Human Rights Organization
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS IN CHINLAND
Cross-Border Traders Face Rampant Extortion
Hunger Victims Forced to Finance Government’s Project
SPDC Authorities Collected Money from Civilian for Bridge Repair
SPDC Army Looted Passenger’s Goods
Vengeful Authorities Punished Villagers Who Voted against the New Constitution
Local Man Hospitalized After Attacks by Vigilante
Two Women among Arbitrarily Detained and Tortured
Internet Cafes Start To Boom In Chin State Amid Fears For Users
FOOD CRISIS IN CHINLAND
Starvation Stalks In Chin State As Burma’s Regime Ignores
Severe food shortages in Chin State focus of WFP meeting
More Than 30 Children Died Due To Food Crisis In Chin
Chiangmai Concert Raises Awareness and Money for Famine Relief in Chin State
Chin Medical Student on Noble Mission
Live Aid Concert to Take Place in Malaysia
NEWS AND EVENTS
Chin Traditional Dress Impressed Britain’s Prince Charles
Chin Student Union of North America Held Its Third Conference
Commemoration of 20th Anniversary of Burma’s 8888 Uprising In Full Preparation
Hundreds Joined ‘8888’ Demonstration in London
Chin Communities Held Seminars and Conferences Across The World
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN CHINLAND
CROSS-BORDER TRADERS FACE RAMPANT EXTORTION
17 July 2008
Burmese soldiers stationed in Tedim Township regularly extort money and loot goods from cross-border traders, one of the traders told Chin Human Rights Organization.
On July 20, 2008, Major Phyu Zaw Aung, from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 228 arrested Pu Pa Cin from Laitu village for importing hardwood lumber into the country. He was forced to pay two and half million Kyats.
In a similar incident on July 19, another trader who was carrying canned meats on 54 horsebacks was arrested by Burmese soldiers from LIB 226 and extorted 50,000 Kyats. Further into his journey, he ran into another group of Burmese soldiers from LIB 228 who made him pay another 70,000. When he arrived at Fartlang village on the Indian border he was again extorted 30,000 Kyats by Burmese army patrol unit from LIB 228.
Besides, on July 23, 2008, Mr. San Lian Thang from Kalay Myo, who loaded dry chili with 43 horses to Mizoram was asked Kyat- 2000 per horse by Lieutenant Myo Ko Zaw and his men from LIB- 268. He was again asked Kyat- 4000 per horse by major Phyu Zaw Aung. The victim had purchased (340) tins of dry chili at a rate of Kyat- 7500 per tin in Kalay Myo. The current price of dry chili in Aizawl is Rs- 250 per kilogram.
HUNGER VICTIMS FORCED TO FINANCE GOVERNMENT’S PROJECT
27 July 2008
Nine villages in Tiddim Township of northern Chin State were forcibly ordered on July 6, 2008 to contribute money for the procurement of jatropha seed (a type of bio-fuel), according to a local resident.
Major Phyu Zaw Aung from Light Infantry Battalion 228, ordered every household in nine villages in Tiddim Township under his jurisdiction to pay Kyats 500 in finance government’s bio-fuel plantation project in the area.
As villagers were already dealing with acute food shortages in the area, they pleaded repeatedly with the Major to extend the deadline for collection of the money. But Major Phyu Zaw Aung insisted that every household pay the money before the end of July.
Similarly, Tiddim Township Peace and Development Council’s chairman also issued the same order affecting all villages in the township to collect Kyat- 500 per household. A deadline of submission of the money to TPDC’s office is slated for the first week of May 2008.
SPDC AUTHORITIES COLLECTED MONEY FROM CIVILIAN FOR BRIDGE REPAIR
28 July 2008
The Chairman of Sagaing Division’s Kalay Township Peace and Development Council, citing the need for funds to repair a bridge, arbitrarily collected money from the public – 500 Kyats per household in the area, a local person reported to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).
Each year the authorities collected money from the public to repair the bridge which connects Kalay Town and Say Kyi Village. But the bridge gets ruined every rainy season and people in the area have been regularly forced to pay of its repair.
“If all the money collected from the public has been spent, the bridge would have not been damaged every rainy season. The authorities have been pocketing the money for themselves and that’s why we are in this situation,” says a local resident.
The Roman Catholic Church of Myanmar in Kalay Town, trying to alleviate the public burden, asked the local authorities to allow them to construct the bridge with its own fund in June 2008. But the authorities had rejected the Church’s proposal.
“They turned down the Church’s proposal because the authorities know their source of income will be lost if the bridge is fixed,” says the local resident.
Damage to the bridge has disrupted transportation and seriously affected the daily livelihood of people in the area. Residents, for example, have to spend an extra 1000 Kyats to hire a motorcycle to transport their goods and foodstuff.
SPDC ARMY LOOTED PASSENGER’S GOODS
29 July 2008
The Burmese soldiers, stationed in Khampat and belonging to LIB-82 (Based in Sagain Division) routinely loot properties from bus passengers, traveling between Tamu and Kala Town, a local told CHRO.
A group of Burmese soldiers and drunken local thugs on June 13, 2008, stopped a bus coming from Tamu Town. Upon entering the town of Khampat, all passengers were ordered to get off and the soldiers and their associates looted goods on board, saying the goods were illegally imported from India.
“If you whine about it you all will be put in jail,” the soldiers told the passengers who tried to claim back their goods. Most of the passengers were residents of Kalay Town and they were carrying goods they had purchased from the Indian town of Moreh.
VENGEFUL AUTHORITIES PUNISHED VILLAGERS WHO VOTED AGAINST THE NEW CONSTITUTION
30 July 2008
Villages in Thanlang Township who overwhelmingly had voted “No” in the constitutional referendum on May 10 are being punished by the Township authorities, a local source told CHRO.
As part of a campaign tactic to persuade voters to approve the constitution, military authorities distributed free rice to several villages in Thantlang Township. Thantlang Township Peace and Development Chairman Khuang Hlei Thang is now asking all the villages that received free rice from the authorities in the pre-referendum period, and who had voted against the draft constitution to pay back the price of rice they have received.
The villages included; 1. Hmun Halh village which is being asked to repay Kyat- 500,000 for receiving (15) bags of rice, 2. Banawh Tlang village, Kyat- 80000 for receiving (6) bags of rice. The other villages such as Zephai –A and B, Tluangram- A,B,C, Vungtu village and Hriphi village respectively are to pay for the “free” rice they received
LOCAL MAN HOSPITALIZED AFTER ATTACKS BY VIGILANTE
31 July 2008
A Chin civilian was admitted to the hospital on May 15, 2008 for severe bodily injuries after he was violently attacked by government’s vigilante group, a relative of the victim reported to CHRO.
Mr. San Thuan Thang, a 29 year-old from Waybulah Village of Falam Township, was brutally assaulted by “firemen” or local vigilantes on his way home from work. At 9 pm, the victim was walking home when he was accosted by a group of vigilante who asked him for money to buy alcohol. When San Thuan Thang told them he doesn’t have any money, the group gang-beat him. He was then taken to San Myo police station where the group filed a criminal charge against him for attempted robbery.
According to the relative, San Thuan Thang was again badly beaten and tortured by the police in custody until he lost consciousness. He was released on bail after his aunt and the Chairman of No. 9 Taunghila ward put up a bail three days later.
The victim was unable to urinate and his whole body was swollen as a result of the beating and torture. Upon his release from the police station, he was immediately admitted to Whisley Hospital where he spent a week in recovery and accumulated 150, 000 in hospital bills. He was also asked to give the police in bribery 250,000 Kyats if he wished to close his case with the police. He was threatened with three years jail time if he did not pay the cash to the police upon his recovery.
Suan Thuan Thang has no parent or relatives who could afford the money for him. So he sold off his house below the market rate in order to pay off the police for the settlement of his case. He has since fled to India’s Mizoram, says his relative.
TWO WOMEN AMONG ARBITRARILY DETAINED AND TORTURED
11 August 2008
Two married women along with four villagers from Ngalaing village of Matupi Township are still in army custody after the Burma Army accused them of involvement in the case of a missing rifle belonging to a member of the opposition Chin National Army (C.N.A), the husband of a woman who escaped the arrest over the same case and who also fled to India testified to Chin Human Rights Organization.
According to him, the victims were arrested on July 10 at around 6 p.p. local time by a group of 12 soldiers and a local police chief. The order for arrests was issued by Colonel Zaw Myint Oo, Commander of Tactical Command (2) based in Matupi town.
The arrests and detention follow a 2000 incident in which one Maung Khaw Lin, a Chin National Army deserter, who later went to Thailand, left his M16 rifle at his uncle’s house. The uncle then handed over the gun to the village headman who then hid the gun in his barn. The headman later returned the gun over to the Chin National Army in early May 2007.
But Maung Khaw Lin secretly returned back to his village when he was stopped and questioned at a checkpoint at Mindat by Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 274. He then revealed the entire incident about his desertion from the C.N.A and how he left his gun.
Upon hearing a confession from the former C.N.A member, the army went looking for all people implicated in the case. U Maung Thang and U Thi Muai fled before they were apprehended by the army. But their wives were taken into custody when they learned about their escape. U Maung Thang’s wife was physically abused, beaten and humiliated. She was forced to do sit-ups for one hundred times before she fainted in pain.
All the people are still in detention in army custody at the time of this report.
INTERNET CAFES START TO BOOM IN CHIN STATE AMID FEARS FOR USERS
Van Biak Thang
16 August, 2008
Communication seems to get better and more accessible to the Chin people as a number of Internet Cafes opened to the public, yet with limited access, has increased recently in Chin State, sources revealed.
At least 3 Internet Cafes have been opened last month by private owners, making a total of 4 in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, Burma. There is at least one Internet Cafe, according to unconfirmed sources, each in Falam, Than Tlang and Tiddim towns, three of the biggest in Chin State.
“The Internet is mostly used for communicating with the Chin people living in other countries. We are quite busy these days with customers who have got families and relatives abroad. Internet facilities such as chatting and email are the most common ones,” a local Internet Cafe assistant told Chinland Guardian.
Depending upon the facilities and quality of computer accessories provided, the Internet users have to pay the fees ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 Kyats per hour, which is said to be much cheaper than using the telephone.
A local Internet user from Than Tlang town told Chinland Guardian: “We come to use Internet because it is much better than telephone. We can chat, talk and use emails. The problem is that we don’t have electricity regularly. Luckily these days, the electricity is running every day as one of the government officials is visiting the town.”
Sudden growth of Internet cafes in Chin State sparks fears for the users who can be tapped or eavesdropped at any times by the military authority. In Burma, anyone can be arrested without a warrant for being involved in any form in the promotion of human rights and democracy.
Some well-known media websites such as BBC and VOA are banned from public use but these blocked websites can be accessed by using a different proxy server. The users, well aware of the possible consequences, are being cautious and careful when they are online and using the Internet, a local Internet assistant said.
Military-monitored Internet has been used in government offices in Chin State since the early 2000s. A public Internet with very limited access was first available in Hakha in 2005. Introducing a more advanced communications technology called ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) brought about the rise of Internet cafes in Chin State this year.
Chin State has been isolated and cut off communications from the outside world for decades. Till today, no tourists have been since then allowed to travel into the mountainous state. Little is thus exposed and known about the sufferings of the Chin people who like other ethnic groups in Burma have been facing the callous brutalities of Burma’s military regime. This has led to a continuing massive exodus of the Chin people from their homeland towards other countries in search of safety and refuge.
FOOD CRISIS IN CHINLAND
STARVATION STALKS IN CHIN STATE AS BURMA’S REGIME IGNORES
Van Biak Thang
04 August, 2008
‘Government-neglected’ starvation, locally known as Mautam, has been ravaging Chin State, sparking fears that the affected areas could be immensely increased unless more relief aids are promptly delivered, sources revealed.
Burma’s regime has been, for the second time after the Nargis cyclone, severely condemned for denying the existence of famine in the country and ‘turning a blind eye’ to the suffering of its own peoples while governments of India and Bangladesh have at least prepared, although reported inadequate, for the present bamboo-flowering cycle which occurs every fifty years.
A recent report by Project Maje stated: “As the swarming rats of the Mautam devour the people’s food, so do the generals ruling Burma relentlessly steal, extort, plunder and confiscate, leaving nothing. Unless military rule is ended, Burma will continue to be a disaster zone and the present hunger belts will stretch from border to border.”
“As was apparent in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, when the regime of Burma will not facilitate relief aid, grassroots groups must take action as best they can. Such a do-it-yourself equivalent of a civil society occurs without the regime’s approval and often with its hindrance but it can be powerfully effective”, the report continued.
Efforts have been made but no way near ‘enough’ by Chin organisations, churches and individuals yet with little help from international communities. Some locally formed organisations including Mizoram-based Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), Burma-based Maraland Social Welfare and Development Committee (MSWDC) and Country Agency For Rural Development Myanmar (CAD) have also been actively working in response to the current situation.
Project Maje’s report suggested: “Relief aid including emergency rice and seed stocks, with rat-proof containers, would be given directly to the hunger belt of Chin State by Burma’s regime (which is wealthy, with a reported US$150 million a month income from its petroleum joint ventures with France’s Total, the United States’ Chevron, South Korea’s Daewoo, China, Thailand and India) or the United Nations and other international donors.”
Rev. Dr. C. Duh Kam, Executive Minister of Chin Baptist Fellowship of America (CBFA) strongly called on Chin individuals worldwide to take a ‘life-saving aid’ action, saying: “If each one of us puts just our half-day wages aside, our fellow Chins can survive. Let us waste our time no more but take some food out of our own mouths for our nation now.”
The bamboo flowering and rat infestation cycle has in the past lasted for about three years, until the rats run out of food and their populations return to normal. According to The Times of India, “the last flowering in Mizoram, in 1958-59, caused a famine that killed between 10,000 and 15,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of livelihoods.”
An increasing number of Chin victims are migrating, leaving their native places towards the Indian-Burma border in search of food and security. “If this famine continues for the next three years, our land will be completely deserted and empty. We need your immediate actions,” said Rev. M. Thawng Kam, General Secretary of Zomi Baptist Convention.
Perhaps most importantly, as has been stated in other Project Maje reports, a complete end to the abuse of ethnic nationality people of Burma must be an unwavering condition of any political process in Burma. Human rights violations, exploitation and degradation of the environment for commercial purposes have made the Chin people particularly vulnerable to the current Mautam and cut off from the relief aid which is reaching those affected by the bamboo/rat cycle in the neighboring countries, the report said.
Locally known as Mautam, the famine is caused by a massive influx of rats following the blossoming bamboos which produce avocado-like fruits. After feeding on the bamboo fruits/seeds, the rats begin to reproduce in an accelerated birth surge. The rodents often grow to particularly large sizes and can gnaw through wood floors, walls, storage containers and granaries. Swarms of these nocturnal rats quietly invade farms and villages to devour crops, stored rice and others such as potatoes, maize, chilli and sesame.
SEVERE FOOD SHORTAGES IN CHIN STATE FOCUS OF WFP MEETING
August 7, 2008 – The severe food crisis in Chin state of Burma was the focus of the meeting of international and domestic non government organizations held at the World Food Program’s (WFP) head-office in Rangoon yesterday. All present agreed on the acuteness of the crisis and expressed fears about imminent famine in Chin state.
In an e- mail sent to Khonumthung News , the director of Country Agency for Rural Development (CAD), Joseph Win Hlaing Oo says, ” Many news agencies are broadcasting there is famine in Chin state; so far famine has not started, but there is certainly a serious food crisis.”
He further said the report of the Chin Human Right Organization on food crisis in Chin state dominated the discussion in yesterday meeting.
Participants of the meeting agreed rat infestation and draught have badly affected villagers in Chin state.
The WFP approved CAD’s proposal of free distribution of food and implementation of the food for work program. CAD believes these would help people in affected areas.
The meeting was concluded with a resolution to work closely for more concrete data and methodology on the food crisis in Chin state, Joseph Win Hlaing Oo added.
A total of 12 participants from WFP, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) , GRET (Groupe d’échange et de recherche technologiques), Care, KMSS(Karuna Myanmar Social Services), CDRT, CAD and DFID (Department for International Development) were present at the meeting.
The food crisis which is about to assume proportions of a famine (local known as Mautam) follows the flowering of bamboo plants. It is said to have started in 2006 and plagued several parts of Chin state and caused food shortage in the region.
Rats multiply after eating bamboo flowers and damage paddy and other crops, which is the main food of the Chin people. The rats attack even the barns where paddy stocks are kept.
According to Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC) the Chin relief group based in Mizoram in northeast India, 100,000 of over 500,000 people in Chin state are facing severe food shortages. – KHONUMTHUNG.
MORE THAN 30 CHILDREN DIED DUE TO FOOD CRISIS IN CHIN STATE
Van Biak Thang
23 August, 2008
At least 31 children have died due to the ongoing ‘government-ignored’ severe food crisis in Chin State, Burma, a statement by Chin National Council on Tuesday revealed.
The statement said the current situation will even get worse if no immediate aids are addressed and delivered, accusing Burma’s military dictatorship of not only ‘shrugging off’ but also making the situation worse by continuing various human rights violations, ruthless exploitation of people and resources, religious persecutions and systematic repressions against the Chin people.
The number of children dying from famine-related malnutrition and diarrhea has increased to 44 and about 2,000 Chin victims have fled to India, Khonumthung News said.
At least 200 Chin villages along the Burma, India and Bangladesh border with an estimated 100,000 Chin people are directly affected, facing starvation, according to a recent report by Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO).
In an attempt to response to the rat-infested famine situation in Chin State, Rangoon-based CAD (Country Agency for Rural Development) is set to have a second meeting with international organisations including WFP (World Food Programme), UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), CARE, GRET (Groupe d’échange et de recherche technologiques), KMSS (Karuna Myanmar Social Services) and DFID (UK Department for International Development) on 25 August.
Some individuals are concerned that it is not time for having a series of meetings but for taking immediate yet effective actions.
“Cross border initiative to support the victim is also in progress despite some differences among the groups that are engaged. The need is too much and the challenges are immense. We all must response collectively so that it will be effective,” said a prominent Chin political figure, Victor Biak Lian, who met the government officials and NGOs in the UK last June, 2008.
“UN agencies and WFP are now engaged which is a big step forward. And the government even acknowledge the problem of food crisis in Chin State,” added Victor Biak Lian.
A team of famous Chin and Mizo singers are to perform at a series of fundraising ‘Chin Famine Live Aid Concert’ scheduled to take place in Thailand,Singapore and Malaysia in August and September. The band includes Zam Nu, Sung Tin Par, Mimi Lalzamliani, Malsawmtluangi and San Pi.
Rat-related famine has been said to be spreading into Tamu, Kalay township in Sagaing division where crop-destroying rats and insects wer eating up crops in the fields, recent reports said.
Chin Humanitarian and Relief Committee (CHRC), consisting of 16 members, was established by Chin Naitonal Council on 18 August with the aims of assisting with relief items to the starving people, establishing social security and providing services, uplifting of the social life of Chin people and assisting in various kinds of development in the state.
The Chin National Council called on Chin communities worldwide, groups, individuals and the international donors to work together with the CHRC for implementation of famine relief, developments and social upliftment of the victims of famine in Chin State.
CHIANGMAI CONCERT RAISES AWARENESS AND MONEY FOR FAMINE RELIEF IN CHIN STATE
By Cer Chin
28 August, 2008
Chiang Mai, Thailand: Last night, over one thousand concert-goers filed into the stadium at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand to hear performances by top artists from Burma and Mizoram participating in the Chin Famine Live Aid Concert. The Chin community of Chiang Mai organized the concert to benefit victims of the ongoing famine and food shortages in Chin State, Burma.
“We had a very good turnout last night. The performances were all top-notch and they generated a lot of excitement from the crowd,” said Freddy Lian, a Chin community leader based in Chiang Mai. “We are grateful that these talented musicians were able to bring much needed attention to the problems currently affecting the Chin people.”
The people of Chin State, Burma are now struggling with food shortages caused by the flowering and dying of bamboos in parts of Chin State starting in 2006. When the bamboo flowers, it produces a fruit that attracts rats, which has led to a rapid infestation of rats particularly in the southern areas of Chin State. After exhausting the supplies of bamboo fruits, the rats turn on the food stores and crop harvests that the Chin people depend upon for their daily subsistence. With food shortages spreading throughout Chin State, many are on the brink of starvation. There are also increased reports of deaths due to starvation.
The proceeds from last night’s Chin Famine Live Aid Concert in Chiang Mai will go to benefit relief operations in Chin State, Burma. Teams of relief workers are working to bring food aids to famine affected areas. “Ticket sales and donations received at the concert will hopefully bring some comfort to those struggling with hunger in Chin State,” Freddy Lian went on to say.
NGO workers, Burma advocates, academics and scholars, religious leaders, members of the Burmese and Chin communities, as well as many others were among those in attendance. Many in the crowd sang and danced along with the singers. The singers also received bundles of flowers from their fans. “It is a rare opportunity for us here in Thailand to be able to attend a live concert with such famous performers. It was very encouraging to see them and we hope they come back for more performances,” remarked one concert-goer.
The Chiang Mai concert is the first of a series of concerts scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore within the next week to raise awareness and money for the Chin famine relief efforts. Performers participating in the concert series include famous Chin singers, Sung Tin Par, Zam Nu, and Sang Pi, along with Mizoram-based singers, Mimi Lalzamliani and Malsawm Tluangi (SP).
CHIN MEDICAL STUDENT ON NOBLE MISSION
Van Biak Thang
30 August, 2008
Thousands of Chin patients from the most famine-affected areas in Chin State have travelled on foot across the mountains to the Indian-Burmese border to receive free medical treatment from a village clinic opened by Chin medical student, Sasa.
Five other MA students, who ask not to be named for security reasons are also volunteering in this dangerous yet worthy life-saving mission with Sasa, a final year medical student at Armenian University.
“As an individual, I have the privilege of giving medical treatment for 3757 patients who came to the border village clinic. I am so thankful to Prince Charles and his charity, and International Health Partners for the medical help,” a doctor-to-be, Sasa, told Chinland Guardian.
“I wish all the Chin people across the world know that our people are dying due to this ongoing famine. We need not words but actions. This is not the time for playing political game by putting on the face of the famine but for standing together to face the reality and help the life to be saved,” added Sasa.
Sasa said 759 rice bags have been delivered directly to 61 villages and some more are on their way to the villages as he thanked an unnamed mother and other friends who lent a helping hand to make this operation possible.
When asked about completing his education, Sasa, who is due to continue his remaining study in the middle of September, said: “Actually, I haven’t finished my study. But the time has come for me to do this. I have heard our people crying with my own ears, I have seen their sufferings with my own eyes and I have felt the brokenness and the pain in my heart. I will serve them with all I could. What is the use for me to come back to my native place when the famine has finished our people’s lives? This is the time our people need us most.”
Meanwhile, a series of concerts to raise awareness and fund for the famine victims is organised in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore with well-known singers, Zam Nu, San Pi and Sung Tin Par from Burma, and Mimi Lalzamliani and Malsawm Tluangi (SP) from Mizoram State of India.
A doctor-to-be, 27, urged all the Chin communities across the world including Chin political parties, religious and social leaders to put all their political, religious and social differences away but to come together to save the lives of the Chin people who have been suffering from all kinds of famine-related illness starting from malnutrition to hunger to death.
A Mara-Chin from Southern Chin State went to the Indian-Burmese border in July, 2008 after meeting Britain’s Prince Charles, government ministers and International organisations in the UK as a member of the Chin degelation that made an advocacy trip, raising awareness and relief aids for Chin victims of the devastating food crisis in Chin State, Burma.
CHIN FAMINE LIVE AID CONCERT TO TAKE PLACE IN MALAYSIA
By Cer Chin
31 August, 2008
Six performers from Mizoram, India and Burma arrived in Malaysia yesterday afternoon to participate in the Chin Famine Live Aid Concert to benefit victims of famine and severe food shortages in Chin State, Burma. Chin singers Sung Tin Par, Zam Nu, and Sang Pi, along with Mizoram-based singers, Mimi Lalzamliani and Malsawm Tluangi (SP) are among the singers scheduled to perform on August 31 and September 1 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city.
“We are honored to have these talented artists visit us in Malaysia, and we have been preparing for their arrival for quite some time now. We are all looking forward to their performances,” said Paul Rung Er Lian, Director of the Malaysia Concert Organizing Committee.
The concerts in Malaysia follow a successfully held concert in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Wednesday evening, where more than a thousand concert-goers attended events to raise awareness and money about the food crisis currently ravaging parts of Chin State.
A rapid infestation of rats in Chin State starting in 2006 has led to food shortages and economic devastation for an estimated 100,000 people, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization. The World Food Program (WFP) recently indicated that they would be looking into the situation in Chin State. Meanwhile, many victims have already crossed the border from Chin State into India in search of relief. Deaths due to starvation have also been reported.
The proceeds of the Chin Famine Live Aid Concerts will go to support cross-border relief efforts already underway in affected areas of Chin State. “We really appreciate the time and energy donated by these musicians to support this important cause,” said Paul Rung Er Lian.
Chin Christian churches and fellowships are responsible for organizing the concert in Kuala Lumpur. The performers are also scheduled to travel on to Singapore later this week and will be performing in Singapore next weekend.
NEWS & EVENTS
CHIN TRADITIONAL DRESS IMPRESSED BRITAIN’S PRINCE CHARLES
Van Biak Thang
04 August, 2008
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales expressed his admiration for the Chin traditional dress during a meeting at his residence in London with Burmese students including a Chin medical student, Sasa, early July, 2008.
Prince Charles, first in line to the British crown, described the Chin traditional dress as ‘colourful and beautiful’ when Sasa was first introduced on the occasion.
“Among the group, I was the first person introduced to the Prince and his first response to me was ‘your dress is so beautiful’ and his comments on my dress opened the door for me to explain about the Chin traditional dress that I was wearing,” said Sasa, a final year medical student at Armenian university.
“He liked the Chin dress and kept saying at least 5 times how beautiful the Chin dress is. And I was even thinking to send him one as a present through his secretary,” added a doctor-to-be, 27, from Southern Chin State.
The Chin people nowadays wear their traditional dresses mostly on important occasions and celebrations including Chin National Day, Christmas, New Year and wedding ceremonies.
It has been claimed that Chin traditional dress became better known among the Burmese people after Burma’s famous female Chin rock singer Sung Tin Par performed wearing Chin dresses. The dress was even once known as ‘Sung Tin Par Fashion’, increasing sales and demands on the streets across the country.
Traditionally men would wear distinctively patterned silk blankets, aka shawls, over one or both shoulders in some tribes, wrapping around the whole body and another piece of material in a loincloth style. Women’s dress would include smaller shawls wrapped around their waist as skirts tied with belts and a small piece of cloth (tunic-top) hung over their chest with the help of necklaces over it to keep it in place. However, this tradition is dying out amongst the younger generations.
Burma’s democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned in her book Letters From Burma: “Winter begins for me when at night I start piling on the Chin blankets that we have always used in the family. These blankets of thick cotton come in stripes or checks, usually in different shades of greens, reds and reddish browns.”
She continued: “Now, the first blanket I place on my bed at the advent of the cold weather is an old one given to my father by Chin friends: it is white with faded red stripes and in the corner is the date embroidered by my mother, ’25-3-47′.”
The cultural, economic and political changes of the last century have particular impact on the way the Chin textiles are woven and worn. Traditionally, Chin textiles are hand-woven by women with a bamboo-made back-strap loom. Commercial weaving which is more machine-woven rather than hand-spun is more common and a variety of modified Chin dresses can be found in the market. Today, Chin state is one of the seven states in Burma, where people wear widely in western, as opposed to Burmese, styles.
A variety of patterns and colours in Chin dresses can be seen among the Chin tribes. The main colours for Tiddim tribe are reddish brown, white and black whereas red is for Hakha. Likewise, the same occurs among Chin tribes in the southern part of Chin State.
The modern trends in Chin textiles contain coats, neckties, sarong-like longyis and hta-mains, and accessories including handbags, wallets and wall-scrolls. These textile products have been popularly used as souvenirs and also highly viewed as artworks.
Chin communities and a growing number of foreign enthusiasts are making efforts in a bid to protect and preserve the traditional weaving methods and material patterns from the influence of modern fashion styles.
CHIN STUDENT UNION OF NORTH AMERICA HELD ITS THIRD CONFERENCE
Van Biak Thang
05 August, 2008
The third Chin Student Union of North America (CSUNA) conference was held on August 2-3 in Battle Creek, USA where more than 60 participants including high school students attended.
The event is organised once a year in a bid to discuss the opportunities and challenges confronting the Chin students in North America and find ways to promote students’ education, welfare, cooperation and solidarity among Chin students across the world.
This year, the committee was said to have included other programs for encouraging the young students in a way that they can develop a better understanding of national values and contribute efforts towards the development and rebuilding of Chinland.
“We are very happy to see all the participants from different places with different background come and sit together without parochial attitudes,” said one of the committee members of CSUNA in Michigan State.
The first conference was held in Indiana with a total of 53 Chin students and the second in Washington DC with more than 80 Chin students from United States and Canada.
The organisation has been actively involved in supporting the global campaign to boycott Chinese Products and the upcoming Olympic 2008 after accusing China of lending its unwavering economic and diplomatic supports, and protecting Burma’s military regime internationally.
The CSUNA, formed in August 2006, is an independent and non-profit organization, dedicated to promoting and standing up for the common causes of the Chin people, the educational opportunities and capacity development of Chin students, as well as cooperation, solidarity and unity among Chin people and is committed to working towards the promotion and preservation of Chin culture, literature, and heritages.
COMMEMORATION OF 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF BURMA’S 8888 UPRISING IN FULL PREPARATION
Van Biak Thang
07 August, 2008
London, UK: A concatenation of demonstrations in commemoration of what is known as “8888 Uprising” is set to take place in London, UK tomorrow, 8th of August. The events will mark the 20th anniversary of Burma’s national revolution demanding democracy in 1988.
Friday’s programmes include an opening ceremony at Peace Garden in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum to unveil a glass monument to political prisoners in Burma, which will be followed by a demonstration in front of the Burmese embassy, calling for the release of Burma’s political prisoners.
“Our focus would be on political prisoners in Burma, and linking that as a crucial benchmark for progress by the UN initiative. We need to focus our efforts on where we can make a real difference, and the situation of political prisoners is getting increasingly worse. We strongly believe we must do what we can to help them, and BCUK will devote its resources on this day to doing what it can to make sure the situation of political prisoners gets the attention it deserves, “said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK.
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London will host a photo exhibition on political prisoners in Burma. Another demonstration is organised to happen at the Chinese embassy in a protest against the Beijing Olympics, which opens coincidentally on 8th of August.
“Unfortunately, despite what we all agreed, some people have decided to go ahead with a demonstration at the Chinese embassy. In our opinion this is a mistake, it takes away our focus from political prisoners, and we can’t see how it will have any impact on China. Any message we might want to get out about Burma will be completely lost,” added Mark Farmaner of BCUK which is not supporting, promoting and attending the demonstration at the Chinese embassy.
A ‘Bike Ride for Burma’ event is organised this Saturday, 9th of August by a London-based coalition of Burmese students and exiled activists, commemorating the ‘8888 Uprising’, and showing solidarity and support for the citizens of Burma.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, crowds of people will be holding up a giant saffron ribbon as a demonstration to mark the 8.8.1988 Burmese uprising which will be followed by a special gala performance of The Burma Play, starting a minute’s silence.
Today there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma, many subjected to brutal torture and denied medical care, according to Burma Campaign UK.
The 8888 uprising began in Yangon, the former capital of Burma, led by University students which suddenly spread throughout the country. Thousands, mostly Buddhist monks, students and civilians were slaughtered by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council). Burma has been ruled by the brutal, repressive and isolated regime since the military coup in 1962.
HUNDREDS JOINED ‘8888’ DEMONSTRATION IN LONDON
Van Biak Thang
09 August, 2008
London, UK: More than 200 Burmese and British supporters yesterday braved London’s drizzle in a protest as part of 8.8.08 Global Day for Burma, commemorating the 20th anniversary of student-led ‘8888 Uprising’.
The protesters, wearing ‘Free Burma’ T-shirts and ‘Fighting Peacock’ headbands which symbolise the University Student Union and its Fighting spirit for justice and freedom, demonstrated peacefully in front of Burmese embassy, calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma.
Standing inside a ‘dummy’ iron prison bar in front of Burmese embassy, a former potilical prisoner Ko Zaw Zaw Aung told Chinland Guardian: “We all come here today to show that the spirit of ‘8888’ is still alive and that we are still fighting for democracy as we remember those who gave their lives in the fight for democracy back in 1988, . Today’s demonstration signals clearly that the peoples of Burma are standing against the military regime.”
With some holding a big banner that reads ‘None of us are free while one of us is in chains’ and placards reading ‘Free Aung San Suu Kyi, Free all political prisoners’, the protesters from prominent Burmese political figures to babies as young as one filled up the street, shouting slogans ‘Free, Free – Burma, Burma’.
“Today we are here gathering together in solidarity without brothers and sisters who are in prison in Burma. And we are here to commemorate the 88 uprising. Also at the same time, we are here to demand for the release of our fellow citizens of Burma who are currently in jail in Burma. And we are calling on the regime to release all political prisoners immediately and on international communities to push Than Shwe and the generals to secure the release of all political prisoners including our democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to start a tripartite dialogue with the opposition party and ethnic nationalities,” a Karen activist, Zoya Phan of Burma Campaign UK told Chinland Guardian.
“The longer we wait, the more people will die; the longer we wait, the political prisoners in Burma will suffer and die. People in Burma do not have the rights to access to their freedom of expression and opinion. But here, we can do that. So we need to appeal to our freedom and rights to free the peoples of Burma who have suffered too much,” added daughter of the late KNU General Secretary Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan.
A ceremony of consecrating and unveiling a glass monument dedicated to the political prisoners in Burma was held in the morning with more than 50 participants at Peace Garden on the grounds of Imperial War Museum. “This monument is dedicated to the political prisoners of Burma and will be temporarily held in the UK. Then it will be one day placed in Burma where it belongs when we have democracy,” said a former political prisoner, Ko Aung of Burmese Democratic Movement Association.
During the 88 uprising which ended on September 18, 1988, the long-standing military dictatorship slaughtered thousands, mostly monks and students. It is estimated that those killed 20 years ago today and in the subsequent crackdown range from 3,000-10,000. The regime also suppressed peaceful pro-democracy uprisings in 1996 and 2007. Today there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma, many subjected to brutal torture and denied medical care, according to Burma Campaign UK.
CHIN COMMUNITIES HELD SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES ACROSS THE WORLD
Van Biak Thang
17 August, 2008
A series of seminars and conferences was held in recent months by Chin communities in their respective residing countries including USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.
The event which happens once a year or once in two years time in some countries is organised as part of the aims for protecting and promoting unity and developing a closer relationship among the Chin people.
Chin communities in Germany yesterday held a conference, ending with a friendly football match. One team from a combination of those living in Nuremberg and Munich played against another team from Frankfurt.
In North America, Chin Christian Fellowship of Canada (CCFC) held a four-day long conference in Kitchener, Ontario with more than 300 participants in June and Chin Baptist Fellowship of America (CBFA) their second annual conference in Dallas, Texas with more than 600 participants in July.
Salai Cung Cin, the newly elected Executive Director of CCFC, said: “Year after year, I am so impressed to see the growing national Unity, understanding, cooperation, and love among our Chin people across Canada. Indeed, I am so thankful to all our respective Church/fellowship leaders, community leaders, Resource persons, and all my fellow Chins for all their contributions and painstaking works which make our works possible. May we continuously strengthen the very spirit of our oneness as a people with a shared history, cultures, and a shared common destiny!”
The first meeting ever held by the Chin people living in Norrbotten, Sweden, combined with the opening ceremony of Chin Christian Church Sweden took place in the last week of July this year.
In Norway, more than 500 Chins attended the 3rd biennial conference organised in Stavanger, the fourth biggest city in Norway by Norway Chin Christian Fellowship (NCCF) and the conference was also attended by some Chin fellows from countries including Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Burma.
Invited as special guests to the conferences in Denmark and Norway included Rev. Dr. Stephen Hre Kio and his wife from the US. Known among the Falam-Chins as their missionary ‘Siangbawipa’, Rev. Dr. Stephen Hre Kio, the current pastor of Indiana Chin Baptist Church, Indianapolis, was a United Bible Society Translation consultant after working for various religious organisations and churches in Chin State including translating the Bible into Falam from 1974 to 1985.
Former General Secretary of Zomi Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr. Chum Awi meanwhile called on Chin communities worldwide for forming International Chin Christian Fellowship which will serve as an umbrella organisation for Chin Christians and churches across the globe.
The 3rd Chin Student Union of North America conference was successfully held on 2-3 August, 2008 in Battle Creek with over 80 Chin university students, high school students and alumni from Canada and the US.
“Our fellow students once again have shown us how important and invaluable unity is amongst ourselves. On the other hand, I have come to realize that the differences among the Chin peoples are what make the Chins unique. I am honoured to be a small part of an organization that always shows us ‘Unity in Diversity’”, says the newly elected General Secretary, Salai Shing Ki Gei.
The conference programs incorporated various items such as Praise and Worship, Bible Study, workshops on various topics which include health, education, and the prevalent Chin humanitarian issues aiming at promoting the social and spiritual well-being of the Chin people, sing-song services, sports, writing competitions and concerts.
The Chin people, like other ethnic nationalities in Burma, left their homeland in search of refuge in other countries due to political repression, religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and fundamental human rights violation inflicted upon by the brutal military regime. It is estimated that there are currently, according to a report by CHRO (Chin Human Rights Organisation), about 60, 000 Chin refugees in India and 30,000 in Malaysia, and several thousands more in Bangladesh as well as Thailand.
BACK COVER POEM
THE SPIRITS OF 8888
Van Biak Thang
08 August, 2008
Two decades have passed in a clear memory
And so have many lives but unknown like a mystery:
Monks, students, civilians gun down to death
And more leaders imprisoned and tortured by stealth
The people stood unarmed, united for democracy
Holding hands as one family and walking for liberty
But broken was their dream into a pool of blood
When with martial law the regime struck like a flood
Many students have away run from their loved country
Climbing uphills and crossing borders as a refugee
While their families suffer from the Junta’s forces
Yet many more still serve their ‘uncharged’ sentences
The spirits of ‘Fighting Peacock’ today among us live
With ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ they then did give
However long and hard the road may be before us
We all must stand as one and fight till the end thus